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Moving in the right direction for recycling in the county

July 17, 2009

Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. Skip Kauffman was on the money when he said at last week's town council meeting that Washington County should be responsible for establishing a curbside recycling program.

The town was discussing a donation of $10,000 from the Nora Roberts Foundation for curbside recycling in the small community on the south end of the county.

Town officials opted to keep the well-intended donation and explore ways later in the year to start curbside recycling for its residents.

Kauffman also brought up an important point that bears repeating: Washington County officials need to get the ball rolling on a countywide curbside recycling program.

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Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire told The Herald-Mail that the county's solid waste advisory board has been working on a countywide recycling program "that makes sense for the whole community."

That's the rub. Aleshire knows that curbside recycling won't be cheap. He knows it will take a serious financial commitment from taxpayers and leaders of each community in the county.

But here's another thing we all know: Establishing a countywide program is the right thing to do.

Some points from the Environmental Protection Agency to consider:

o Recycling (including composting) diverted 68 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2001, up from 34 million tons in 1990.

o Recycling aluminum cans at the curb not only covers the cost of collecting and re-processing aluminum, but helps subsidize the collection of other recyclables.

o 75 percent of what Americans throw in the trash could actually be recycled.

o Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates one job; landfilling 10,000 tons of waste creates six jobs; recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs.

o The national recycling rate of 30 percent saves the equivalent of more than five billion gallons of gasoline, reducing dependence on foreign oil by 114 million barrels.

People are way more likely to participate in a recycling program if the county or town in which they live makes it easy for them. In several communities in nearby Franklin County, Pa., all residents have to do is fill up their green cans and drag them to the curbs every other week.

The hardest part is remembering which weeks are "recycling weeks."

A countywide program would take some of the pressure off the communities to administer the curbside recycling and would help avoid redundancy in efforts. It also would give the county greater power in negotiating contracts with haulers.

So hats off to Nora Roberts for her continued efforts in giving back to the community. Hats off to the Boonsboro Town Council for its sterling recycling efforts in the past (the town's recycling task force this year received the state's Outstanding Environmental and Community Leadership Award). And hats off to Commissioner Aleshire and the county's desire to revamp its recycling program and making strides to make it a reality.

We need strong leadership and direction on this issue. We need a program that makes sense financially and practically. Let's hope the county's study turns into a plan of action.

And most of all, we all need to realize that it's not just up to the commissioners, the mayors and council people. It's up to us to take part. It's up to us to get a recycling can, fill it and tote it to wherever it needs to go.

Whether it's to the curb, a drop-off station on the other side of town or to the landfill, recycling is something we all can do together to take better care of the place we call home.

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